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Chicago Sun-Times Opinion This Week
Good morning,
When legislators decided in the 1990s to give some senior citizens tax breaks by freezing their property assessments, critics warned the program would be hard to monitor. Decades later, those concerns have proved to be prophetic.
As Tim Novak, Lauren FitzPatrick and Caroline Hurley reported in Sunday’s Sun-Times, the challenge of monitoring whether applicants really qualify for Cook County’s program is so great that Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office doesn’t even try.
We understand that officials don’t want to toss senior citizens out of their longtime homes just because they can’t pay property taxes inflated by soaring property values. But an error-riddled operation that can’t be monitored is no way to do it. If some property owners get tax breaks they don’t deserve, the rest of us pay, the Editorial Board writes.
On June 15, about 3 million people watched Fox News’ Tucker Carlson push a conspiracy theory about the Jan. 6 insurrection being an inside job organized by the FBI. Sun-Times reader Rosemary Wynnychenko of Winnetka laughed and then realized: From non-partisan government officials receiving death threats to a collapsing shared reality, fake news is not a joke. In Letters to the Editor, she argues that fake news is not a policy issue, but an American culture issue.
And while some are making stuff up about what happened at the Capitol six months ago, others are trying to omit centuries of factual history from being taught in schools. In Commentary, Neil Steinberg writes about the critical race theory debate that has been influencing laws in other states.
There is an exquisite irony of the Republican resistance to teaching troublesome racial reality — their bonehead attempt at censorship is a compelling argument for why the full scope of America’s past, both glory and shame, must be taught. Because look at the kind of people who are allowed to run things when it’s not, Steinberg writes.
— Ismael Pérez, editorial board member

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
When legislators decided in the 1990s to give some senior citizens tax breaks by freezing their property assessments, critics warned the program would be hard to monitor.
Decades later, those concerns have proved to be prophetic. As Tim Novak, Lauren FitzPatrick and Caroline Hurley reported in Sunday’s Sun-Times, the challenge of monitoring whether applicants really qualify for Cook County’s program is so great that Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office doesn’t even try.
On top of that, the assessor’s office admits it’s made numerous errors in calculating the property tax savings under the senior freeze program.
That’s a shameful failure of government. We understand that officials don’t want to toss senior citizens out of their longtime homes just because they can’t pay property taxes inflated by soaring property values. But an error-riddled operation that can’t be monitored is no way to do it. No assessor is ever going to have a big enough staff to make sure all 144,000 Cook County properties that are getting the tax freeze in fact deserve it.
For some seniors, the freeze can be a lifeline. But property taxes in Cook County are a zero-sum game. Whenever anyone gets a break, the difference must be made up by all other property owners. If some property owners get tax breaks they don’t deserve, the rest of us pay.
The Legislature needs to figure out a way to get tax relief to people who deserve it without allowing others to unfairly piggyback onto the system. Perhaps the Department of Revenue, which already knows how much everyone is earning through their state income tax returns, could do a more efficient job of fairly distributing tax breaks.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board is the opinion voice of the hardest-working newspaper in America. It is headed by editorial page editor Tom McNamee and includes Thomas FrisbieLorraine ForteLee BeyIsmael Pérez and Mary Mitchell as members.
What others have to say
Neil Steinberg on critical race theory:
History is a balancing act. A good teacher mixes the positive and the negative. Terrified politicians try to put their thumb on the scales because they can’t stand living in a nation where Black Lives Matter, where the country’s true racial history is taught as if it were real history.
GOP tries to sucker punch U.S. history in ‘critical race theory’ debate
More editorials we published this week
National Museum of Mexican Art shows how big cities thrive: From the neighborhood up
On the Fourth of July, celebrate — but get vaccinated first
In your words
“Instead of ridiculing or yelling at individuals who spout conspiracy theories, we need to talk with them, ask them what they believe and why, and encourage them to question their own beliefs.”
Rosemary Wynnychenko, Winnetka
Every day we publish submissions from Chicago Sun-Times readers weighing in on issues facing the city and its residents. Send letters to letters@suntimes.com or reply to this email to share your perspective.
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Chicago Sun-Times Opinion This Week

A weekly overview of opinions, analysis and commentary on issues affecting Chicago, Illinois and our nation by outside contributors, Sun-Times readers and the CST Editorial Board.

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